How Basecamp Got It Wrong
Banning the discussion of politics at work is sweeping your problems under the rug.
I have been a fan of the project management platform Basecamp for years. I selected the product in 2014 to manage a team of analysts and developers at a software company. Easy to learn, easy to collaborate, it had everything we needed.
I read both books written by co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. I was so enamored with the company culture and their approach to work that when Basecamp HQ in Chicago hosted a forum led by Fried, I attended. I even went up to him after and chatted briefly about remote work.
Every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant…It’s a major distraction. It saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places. It’s not healthy, it hasn’t served us well. And we’re done with it on our company Basecamp account where the work happens.
My reaction? What a narrow way to view work. It further marginalizes people by telling them to “check your problems at the door.” Work becomes confined to a place we go rather than something we do as an integral part of our lives.
As Nicole Kohler, people ops expert, puts it:
There is a difference in “politics” when we discuss policies about how to spend our tax dollars versus policies that cause harm to a group of people. It can’t all be tossed under a single umbrella as “politics.”
To be clear: the only people who benefit from this type of policy are those that face no discomfort in their lives. And likely were uncomfortable when their views were challenged.
What baffles me about Basecamp’s open admission of their internal problems and misguided attempt to address the issue is…